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National Book Award Finalist

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Hannah was my best friend until her father killed her mother with the bread knife.  Hannah found the body late one October afternoon and ran screaming down the stairs into my aunt's arms.  Later my uncle said that Hannah's mother had always nagged too much, and he cried  because they'd all known each other since before the war.

Hannah' father was sent to prison in upstate New York, and his spinster sister Irene moved in from Philadelphia.  A schoolteacher, misplaced in our part of Brooklyn, she never let any of Hannah's friends inside the apartment.  I was the only one of us even allowed on the stoop.  I'd passed her test.


I stood on the pavement; she looked down at me from her wooden folding chair at the top of the brownstone steps.

"Tell me," she said, "the names of twenty Presidents of the United states.  They don't have to be in order." Her mouth was tight, and I felt her eyes on my gypsy hair and scraped knees.

"Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Theodore Roosevelt," I said….

—From Matters of Chance, Chapter 1


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